Through North Louisiana Community Enhancement Corporation and the efforts of Minister Payne Montgomery, area residents have gained access to a resource that promotes career readiness and can act as a selling point when businesses and corporations consider basing operations in Morehouse Parish.
The resource is a National Career Readiness Certificate awarded by ACT, Inc., the same non-profit organization that administers the ACT college readiness assessment.
According to ACT.org, the NCRC is a portable credential that demonstrates achievement and a certain level of workplace employability skills in applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information.
According to Henry Cotton, who is consulting with NLCEC on the NCRC program, these skills are tested with a WorkKeys assessment after students practice for the test with a program called KeyTrain. Test takers are ranked at the bronze, silver, gold and platinum level. Certificates are awarded based on the lowest score an individual makes. For example, a student who scores two platinums and one gold on the assessments earns a gold certificate.
In some states, such as South Carolina, the entire state has participated in the work readiness program, but according to www.workreadycommunities.org, Louisiana only has 3 percent participation. Currently, Morehouse Parish has 21 certificates earned, but Minister Payne and Cotton hope that the community will work together to create a documented work ready force.
"Plants that are looking for a place with a specific amount of workers that are work ready can't look at Bastrop," Cotton said, "because we don't have a documented work force that would support industry.
"In order to participate, they [the Work Ready Communities Initiative] open for applications from counties that want to participate," said Cotton. "So the county gets together and builds a team."
These teams comprise people and organizations from industry, business, law enforcement, education, municipalities and local community colleges.
"We are trying to get ready to go for the next wave of applications," said Cotton. "The next period for applications ends July 14."
So far the initiative has had the support of Morehouse Parish Sheriff Mike Tubbs, and two Morehouse Parish inmates participated in the NCRC program and earned high marks. Marcus Douglas scored a silver and Patrick Hill scored gold on the overall assessment.
When asked about the test, both students reported that the locating information portion of the assessment presents the greatest difficulty, but they are excited to have the opportunity to move forward with a credential.
"It went good [the test]," Douglas said, "Some parts were harder than others. I'm glad Mr. Cotton was here for me to help me through the course and get it done. Hopefully it will help me process and do better when I get out.
On his individual assessment scores, Douglas scored gold in reading for information, silver in locating information and at the platinum level in applied mathematics.
"I'd like to thank the program and Sheriff Tubbs for giving me the opportunity to receive an award like that," Hill said.
Hill scored platinum in reading for information and applied mathematics and earned a gold in locating information.
Both Minister Montgomery and Cotton want more community leaders and business owners to step forward to support making Morehouse Parish a work ready community and increase the number of citizens with a national career readiness certificate.
The WorkKeys assessment costs $6 per test, or $18 total. The Bastrop NLCEC is a Work Keys internet version test site. The training is offered at the center and the test is proctored at the same location. NLCEC is located at 105 Kammell Street in Bastrop.